Tyres and tyre-related operations represent around 99% of the Michelin Group’s business. Consequently, only approximately 1% is generated by maps and guides, digital content provided by ViaMichelin, and licensed products managed by the Group’s worldwide Michelin Lifestyle subsidiary.
While 1% may seem like an insignificant amount, these activities are nonetheless fundamental for the Group as a whole since they represent nearly half a billion contacts with the MICHELIN brand. Every year, hundreds of millions of clicks are recorded on the different ViaMichelin websites and tens of millions of brand items – 30 million in 2009 – are sold, including maps, guides and products developed by Michelin Lifestyle.
These activities represent key strengths for the Group. They are also essential since they enable Michelin to be closer to its customers, understand them better, provide them with a useful, high-quality service and create more frequent contacts with the brand in ways that have nothing to do with tire purchases.
For while car owners don’t change their tires once a month or even once a year, motorists or travelers may need a Green Guide more often when preparing a weekend or longer trip, or a ViaMichelin itinerary or map when walking, biking or driving to a personal or business appointment. They may need the advice of the MICHELIN guide when looking for the right restaurant or hotel, or a printed map when traveling by car. Or they may need an automobile or bicycle accessory, or a pair of Babolat sports shoes with Michelin soles for better grip on the tennis court, or a pair of Umbro-Michelin football shoes, to mention just a few of the products developed by Michelin Lifestyle.
Digital content – whether for the Web or for iPhone and Nokia mobile phones – and sports equipment developed by Michelin teams serve as channels that build awareness and create affinity with consumers who are younger than those long familiar with and loyal to the brand.
It all began with the brothers Edouard and Andre Michelin, the founders of the Michelin Group, and their brilliant idea of preparing a small guide with a red cover – of which the 101st edition has just been released – whose initial purpose was to “enable travelers to find food and lodging.” But the guide was in fact much more than that.
The release of the first MICHELIN guide France, created by a tire maker looking to serve customers and win their loyalty by making travel easier, would also be one of the key events underpinning the development of the MICHELIN brand and the rapid growth of its tire business. It would also naturally serve as the cornerstone for Michelin’s emergence as a publisher of travel guides and information. Since 1900, the small manufacturing company from central France has become a global tire company with worldwide operations and more than 100,000 employees. The MICHELIN brand, known at first to just a few thousand motorists, is now recognized by people around the world and pronounced in all languages. Moreover, the emblematic MICHELIN Man is recognized by at least 70%* of all people in the Group’s host countries.
Created at the dawn of the 20th century and now in its second century, the guide has for more than 100 years been the source of inspiration for Michelin’s contributions to enhancing mobility and developing tourism not only in France but in other countries as well.
In 1919, for example, Michelin created its Itineraries Office – a sort of precursor to the ViaMichelin website – that over the next 20 years would prepare more than two million itineraries for travelers. In response to customer requests, Michelin sent detailed files free of charge. These files listed possible stopovers, necessary precautions, local tourist attractions and, of course, addresses of good hotels and restaurants as well as tire repair shops and dealerships. Because of the intense demand for tourist information, the idea emerged of creating a guide with the itineraries that were most often requested. This marked the launch of very first MICHELIN tourist guide, which was quickly to become the MICHELIN Green Guide.
The year 2000, and Michelin’s entry into the third millennium, represented a new turning point that saw not only the founding of Michelin Lifestyle but also the integration of new information technologies to further enhance Michelin’s tourist service offering with the creation of ViaMichelin. In 2000, Edouard Michelin’s objective was for ViaMichelin to one day be among Europe’s leading travel information services. Today, this has become a reality – ViaMichelin is now a major player in the field.
While continuing to strengthen its relations with customers in 2010, Michelin is also committed to moving to the next level, this time by making its travel service offering one of the most innovative and comprehensive in the world.
The Group intends to achieve this goal by more closely aligning its printed publications – maps, tourist guides and MICHELIN guides – with the ViaMichelin digital services offering, thereby providing today’s traveler with access to the full range of Michelin’s highly reliable tourist information. In other words, ViaMichelin and the MICHELIN Green Guide will together open the doors to a large tourist information and services source, a database that has been in the making for more than 100 years. This offer will bring together all content from the MICHELIN Green Guide collection, which has been fully renewed for the occasion, by integrating it with ViaMichelin’s digital technology. It will also include restaurants from the MICHELIN guide selection, detailed maps, satellite photos and the route calculator function already well known to Web users. In addition to this wealth of information, the new offering will provide travelers with something totally new and unique – the possibility of creating their own personalized travel books, enabling them to visualize the trip they’ve dreamed of and see it unfold before their eyes. By year-end 2010, the offer will comprise 90 countries, thousands of destinations, 36,000 tourist sites, 57,000 restaurants and 100,000 hotels, with all information available in five languages. Other content and new features will be added in the months and years ahead.
The new service provides Michelin’s present and future customers with a resource that allows them to easily and enjoyably visualize and plan every aspect of their journey, from the practical to the cultural.
At the same time, they will have regular access to content developed and certified by Michelin as they pleasantly prepare their next trip – perhaps by car – and naturally one that is fitted with MICHELIN tires.
*Michelin Man study conducted in 2008 by TNS Sofres in 11 countries in North America, Asia and Europe.